Experts Urge Government to Keep Traffic Law Strict

Seven NGOs met on Wednesday to is­sue a statement urging the government not to water down the new traffic law in the face of public criticism and to call for their inclusion in two government working groups created at the behest of Prime Minister Hun Sen to consider changes to the law.

During an event at the Cambo­dia-Japan Cooperation Center in Phnom Penh, the organizations working on road safety in the county called for the “stringent enforcement” of the new Land Traffic Law, which came into effect on January 1.

Since then, Mr. Hun Sen has personally amended the law in re­sponse to public outrage and complaints made on his Facebook page. Within a week of the law being implemented, the prime minister said that those driving motorbikes with engines smaller than 125cc would not need driver’s licenses.

Chanpha Khun, behavior change communications manager at the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, one of the NGOs at the event, read out the statement, which encouraged a more scientific approach to policy change.

“Policy that benefits the public in­terest must ultimately rely on sound evidence and data, not merely voice public opinion,” she said, according to a transcript of the statement in English.

While the NGOs agreed that li­censes should be “affordable and ac­cessible for all citizens,” they were adamant that the license re­quirement apply to all drivers.

“In a country where 73 percent of road deaths are motorcycle riders, the government should retain the license provision for 125cc motorcycle riders,” Ms. Khun said.

The NGOs also asked to be in­cluded in the working groups considering amendments to the law.

Men Chansokol, director of the land transport department at the Ministry of Public Works and Trans­port, who is involved in the working groups, said on Wednesday that two main reforms were being considered.

“We are looking at the license re­quirements for Category A [125cc] motorcycles…and vehicle registration,” she said.

Ms. Chansokol did not re­spond to emailed questions about wheth­er NGOs might be included in the working groups.

Ear Chariya, director of the In­sti­tute for Road Safety, another NGO signatory, said he believed there were a number of areas in which the current law could be improved.

“One example is the definition of ur­ban areas,” he said. “In the current traffic law, it is not clear where is the urban areas which requires motorcycles to drive at a maximum of on­ly 30 kph, and cars at 40 kph. The definition in the current traffic law only states that houses close to each oth­er are considered as urban areas.”

Mr. Chariya also cited a lack of clarity regarding the use of headlights during daylight hours and the fact that contrary to accepted safety advice, the new law requires “pedestrians to walk following the traffic direction” when on a road.

“If the government allows us to be part of the movement to review the traffic law, we would be able to give some insight to make a better revision of the law,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Khuon Narim)

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